Highland native Sam LaPorta hears his name called in the 2nd round of the NFL draft
It’s official: 2019 Highland High School graduate Sam LaPorta will be playing on Sundays.
The 6-foot-3, 245 pound LaPorta, who played his collegiate football at the University of Iowa as a tight end, was selected by the Detroit Lions as the third pick in the second round — 34th overall — of the NFL draft Friday night.
During his senior season at Iowa, LaPorta helped the Hawkeyes finish third in the Big 10 West with an 8-5 record — including a 21-0 win against Kentucky in the Music City Bowl — as he racked up 657 yards receiving and one touchdown on 57 catches, averaging 11.3 yards a catch and a touchdown.
Since the New Year, LaPorta — who will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in business administration — has been busy with classes at Iowa and traveling back and forth between Nashville and Iowa City training with (coach) Jeremy Holt and his team as well as San Francisco 49ers all-pro tight end George Kittle, Minnesota tight end TJ Hockenson and Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan.
And Thursday night was the culmination of his tireless work.
LaPorta’s prospect score coming out of the 2023 NFL Combine was 6.18, according to NFL.com, which ranked him fourth in a deep class of tight ends. Analyst Lance Zierline projected LaPorta as a third-round pick and had this to say about the Highland native.
“LaPorta has the ability to threaten zone coverage and will make the basic catches. However, he lacks the desired elusiveness and ball skills to come away with the more challenging catches,” Zierline wrote in his mock draft. “LaPorta takes on run-blocking chores with inconsistent positioning but has the potential to improve with more work in that phase of the game. His catch production is splashy, but he appears to have average-starter potential at the next level.”
SB Nation Kansas City blogger Nate Christensen rated LaPorta as a second-round pick and a good choice to someday replace Chief’s All-Pro Travis Kelce.
Christensen says LaPorta has the best hands among draft-eligible tight ends.
“LaPorta was tasked with playing as a X receiver in the Hawkeyes’ catatonically-bad offense. He did a decent job, flashing the ability to beat press coverage at the line of scrimmage, run an underneath route tree and be difficult for cornerbacks to tackle in space,” Christensen wrote. “While Iowa’s offense wasn’t very good, LaPorta showed he is a versatile tight end who can win at multiple positions.”